Is Vacasa’s cancellation policy fair?

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By Christopher Elliott

All Shira Newman wanted to do was cancel her vacation rental in Seaside, Ore. She figured that she’d booked the rental at the last minute and then canceled shortly thereafter — easy come, easy go. So why not refund her $459?

Why, indeed?

Well, I didn’t get very far with this one. I’m actually surprised I let her grievance go this far. Her case must have struck a nerve with me, because from the outset, I knew her chances of getting a refund were slim.

But still, there’s an important takeaway here for people who are renting rooms and booking hotels I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’m sorry, but you’re outside the cancellation window

For now, though, let’s talk specifics. Newman had booked a last-minute vacation rental on a Monday for the following Sunday to Wednesday. But on Tuesday, her son had a “breakdown” while he was at summer camp.

“I had to go pick him up,” she says.

So on Wednesday, five days before she was supposed to check in, she phoned the vacation rental booking service she’d used, a company called Vacasa.

“They told me that since I was outside their 24-hour window of canceling, the best they could do was to refund me the cleaning fee,” she says. “I could understand if I had made the reservation months before, but I had only made the reservation a few days before for a last-minute reservation.”

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OK, my advocacy team and I thought it would be worth checking with Vacasa about her case. I don’t know, maybe I felt for her, having to cancel her vacation to take care of her son. So I ran her case by the company.

A representative responded right away and assured me that booking and cleaning fees had been fully refunded.

“Our stated policy is that guests have 24 hours immediately after booking or 30 days prior to the reservation date to cancel for a full refund,” she explained. “We do this to protect the homeowners renting their properties. We make sure this policy is communicated to all renters in a variety of ways, including our terms and conditions, a confirmation email and in our rental policy.”

That policy states:

You may cancel within the first 24 hours of booking the reservation with a full refund.

Rental payments (less a 5 percent processing fee) are refundable up until 30 days prior to the reservation.

We are unable to offer refunds on reservations cancelled within 30 days of the check-in date unless you purchase our optional Trip Protection plan and the reason for cancellation falls within the trip protection guidelines.

Not pleased with this resolution from Vacasa

Newman isn’t happy with that resolution, but this is one of those times when I think Vacasa did everything it had to. Perhaps more than it had to. I mean, it was well within its rights to deny her any kind of refund.

Vacasa doesn’t always do the right thing. Here’s another case where one renter found the home completely uninhabitable when she checked in.

The lesson learned? Don’t book something unless you know that you’ll use it? Certainly. Insurance? No. A “breakdown” at camp probably wouldn’t be a covered reason under any standard travel insurance policy. Do business with another company? A hotel probably would have charged her a full night, so she might have done better. Then again, maybe not. (Here’s our guide to finding the best travel insurance.)

I’m moving her grievance into the “Case Dismissed” file, but not before getting on my soapbox. I think the system – where life happens and you lose your entire vacation – isn’t fair. I know that rules are rules, but is there anyone out there who can honestly say the vacation rental company deserved her money? She isn’t staying in the rental.

Is Vacasa right? Yes. Is the system fair to consumers? Sometimes not.

Is Vacasa's cancellation policy fair?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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